There are times when being attentive in school is a breeze. The subject matter is interesting, you're well-rested and your body has all the nutrients it needs to make your mind sharp and receptive. That's how it is some of the time.
In other instances, the task of processing any of the material is challenging at best, nearly impossible at worst. You're not the least bit intrigued by the topic at hand. Your eyelids are heavy because of too much work or too much play. And the healthiest thing you've put into your body in a week was that pizza that actually had some green peppers and tomatoes on it -- in addition to the sausage, jalapenos, extra cheese and pepperoni.
You can't change the subject you're studying, and it's not always possible to get the eight or nine hours of sleep your body craves. You can, however, give your body optimum fuel that burns strong and clean without any major spikes or drop-offs. Sodas and junk food may give you a burst of energy but in a matter of minutes you'll likely be more lethargic than when you started.
So, what can make you sharp, receptive to new ideas and able to remember the information you've read and heard? Blueberries are a start. Click ahead to learn more about the fabulous brain food.
Blueberries are a sweet and handy food that, by some accounts, can give you a nearly immediate burst of pure energy. If the subject matter you're studying is particularly challenging, this juicy snack can help increase your brain's processing capacity [source: Online University]. In addition, blueberries provide your body with the nutrients necessary to move quickly, smoothly and efficiently -- like when you're taking notes at a feverish pace, while still managing to wink at that special someone across the room [source: Online University]. The antioxidants found in blueberries are also a plus since you want to keep that brain humming for years to come.
Kale -- doesn't taste as bad as you might think. No, that's not exactly a great marketing slogan, but it does make an important point; kale has a reputation for being repugnant, and yet many people haven't even tried it.
This so-called superfood is essentially a thicker and heartier version of lettuce. If you feel like you've been losing brain cells (and we all feel that way some days), you can rest easy knowing that the kale you've been crunching on while doing your math homework is packed with antioxidants that help maintain healthy cells [source: Gillman].
If this green food doesn't work for you, there's another one ahead that is a bit more popular and still an excellent brain food.
You've undoubtedly heard the buzz about Omega-3 fatty acids. They're associated with everything from healthy brain growth to energy enhancement, increased memory and more successful cell-to-cell communication [sources: Loh; Online University].
When it comes to learning and attentiveness, you can't beat Omega-3s. And avocados are an excellent source of them. Slice some avocado and put it on a sandwich, mix it with tomatoes, onions and spices to make guacamole or simply eat it plain. It goes bad quickly, but avocado fans know that leftovers aren't usually a problem anyway.
Your brain runs on glucose. Without it, you'd have difficulty handling "4 + 4." Fortunately, legumes provide the glucose necessary to focus on the task at hand and maintain that concentration. This happens with the help of the fiber that legumes also contain.
Fiber prevents glucose from being soaked up too fast. Instead of an energy spike, you get a consistent, sustained flow of fuel [source: Moreno]. It's hard to get bored with legumes since they come in so many varieties. You can snack on edamame, make peas a side dish for your healthy meal or add beans to a salad.
Energy bars don't grow on trees or within pods, but they might as well. Their popularity makes them readily available at grocery and drug stores or even the corner gas station. But they're also produced by a variety of companies that have varying levels of commitment to producing healthy products.
In short, some energy bars offer vitamins, minerals and quality sources of sustained energy that will keep you focused and alert. Others are simply candy bars in disguise. Read the label carefully to ensure you're getting carbohydrates and protein, fats and no unnecessary sugars.
This convenient food is a source of protein, iron and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Thanks to their natural supply of such ingredients, hard-boiled eggs are ideal for warding off the mid-day slumps [source: Lawrence].
Boil six or a dozen at a time so you'll have them handy for snacking. Just avoid the temptation to slather them in butter and coat them with salt. Remember, the goal is to raise your test scores and not your cholesterol and blood pressure.
Next up, we'll study a cognitive enhancement food that's usually served in liquid form.
The place to be for kids, as the metaphor goes is in a candy shop. For adults (or these days, teens) the place to be is the coffee shop. A study of U.S. residents shows that nearly 80 percent are regular coffee drinkers.
When searching for a brain boost, students choose coffee even over energy drinks [source: University World News]. Coffee beans, while pungent, can be good occasional snack for quick energy and attentiveness. Naturally, coffee beans are not recommended for children. Adults should also use them in moderation. Two or three may do the trick, depending on your caffeine tolerance level. Eat them slowly and monitor your responsiveness -- mindless eating of coffee beans can leave a student so full of energy he can't sit still to get his schoolwork done.
Rice won't make you love a subject you hate, but it can help give you a better attitude about it and give you the energy to at least endure the class you're sitting in.
Carbohydrates -- which rice has in abundance -- have been shown to increase the level of serotonin in the human body [source: WebMD]. Serotonin, in turn, lifts a person's spirits. In addition, whole-grain brown rice also provides plenty of fiber to ensure a more substantive and steady fuel burn. Brown rice is a smart lunch choice when a long afternoon of classes is on the schedule.
Eat your broccoli! Your mom didn't tell you that to be cruel. She knew what she was talking about.
This vegetable gives you lots of vitamin K for the growth of bones and for the clotting of blood. No, we're not suggesting you'll be sweating blood before final exams. But you've got to keep your body strong while you're taxing your brain. What's more, broccoli can make your brain more powerful, and it can sharpen your thinking [source: Hazell]. So, eat your broccoli! It's for your own good.
And finally, click ahead for a cool and crisp snack that'll give you a lift on your way to class.
Romaine lettuce is a cool and refreshing snack. But it's overlooked because most people assume it has to be eaten out of a bowl as part of a salad -- and that's not necessary.
In its original form, romaine lettuce can be pulled one large leaf at a time from a stalk, just like celery. Because the center vein of each leaf is crisp, it's great for dipping in humus or eaten plain. What can it do for you? Among many other things, it can give your body folate, which contributes to a healthy memory. School certainly requires a lot of memorization, so don't forget this underrated food [source: Moreno].
There's no magic pill that'll make you smarter or immediately alert but, still, the impact of healthy foods on mental health is noticeable and substantial. With healthy foods like these you'll notice that your body is, truly, fueling your mind.
HowStuffWorks targets 10 foods marketed as healthy that often aren't, like sweet potato fries, protein bars and low-fat salad dressings.
- Gillman, Steve. "70 Ways to Increase Your Brain Power." (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.mindpowernews.com/BrainPower.htm
- Hazell, Kyrsty. "Brain-Boosting Foods to Fuel Concentration and Keep Your Brain Sharp." June 11, 2011. (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2011/11/16/brain-boosting-foods-that-increase-concentration_n_1096824.html#slide=476899
- Lawrence, Star. "Eat to Boost Mental Alertness." Medicine Net.com. (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=56583&page=2
- Loh, Andrew. "Important Brain Foods for Your Child." Brainy Child. (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.brainy-child.com/article/brain-foods.shtml
- Mayo Clinic. "Healthy Eating: What are legumes anyway?" (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/health-tip/HT00558/rss=6
- Moreno, Michael Rafael, M.D. "Try These 17 Brain-Boosting Foods." May 24, 2011. (Aug. 13, 2012) http://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/try-these-17-brain-boosting-foods-2488106.html
- Online University. "20 Foods That Will Increase Your Studying Effectiveness." (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.onlineuniversity.net/20-foods-that-will-increase-your-studying-effectiveness/
- UC Santa Cruz Student Housing. "Eating Strategies For Exam-time." (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.housing.ucsc.edu/dining/pdf/exam-time.pdf
- University World News. "Student Use of Stimulants for Cognitive Enhancement." July 8, 2012. (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.universityworldnews.com/article.php?story=20120703142444718
- WebMD. "A Diet to Boost Your Mood and Energy Level." (Aug. 13, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-energy-mood-boost-diet